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The Protestant Reformation
Fall 2005 Instructor: Nathan Baruch Rein
MW 3:30-4:45 pm Office hours: all afternoon on Tuesday, or by appointment
Olin 108 Olin 211, x. 2571,, AIM: nathanrein

Course description
The Protestant Reformation was indisputably one of the great turning points in the emergence of
modern religion and culture. Its effects extended deep into the fabric of ordinary life, and the
power of the ideas it set in motion can still be felt today, both in Christian and secular contexts. In
this course, you will be introduced to the major actors on the Reformation stage: Luther, Erasmus,
Zwingli, Calvin, and others (with a primary focus on Luther); and you will read, discuss, and write
about their theological works. In addition, you will read other contemporary sources: eyewitness
accounts of events of the Reformation period; official documents published by governments and
church authorities; hymns and prayers; and the like. The most important goal of this course is to
get you to think about the Reformation the way a historian does: to take in its complexity, to think
about the connections that it reveals between abstract thinking and everyday experience, and to
read historical sources with a curious and critical eye. The overarching questions that define this
course are:
• For the people we are studying, what is at the heart of the Christian life? What is
Christian, and what is secular?
• How should we best understand the relationship between individual religious belief
and experience on the one hand, and historical change and historical forces on the

This will be a seminar-style, discussion-based course. Most of your work will consist of reading,
talking about, and writing about historical primary sources. For the most part, there will be no

Course goals
In this course, you are asked to:
• Develop a basic familiarity with the people, ideas, and historical context of the
Protestant Reformation
• Read theological and non-theological texts of the sixteenth century closely and
• Analyze documentary evidence from the period, and synthesize the results of your
analysis in writing, discussions, and oral presentations
There are no prerequisites for this course.

Assignments and grading
There will be five graded assignments in this course. I will weight them as follows in determining
your final grade:
First paper (1200-1500 words) due 2/14 10%
Second paper (1500-2000 w.) due 3/28 15%
First in-class presentation Schedule 10%
Second in-class presentation } t.b.d. 15%
One take-home final due 5/12 25%
Classroom participation (including informal writing; see below) will account for 25% of the final

You will have the opportunity to revise your formal papers. Due dates for revisions will be
established when your paper is returned to you. In general, you will have between five and seven
days to revise.

Informal writing
This course also requires regular informal writing. This falls into three categories: focus papers;
reading notes and discussion questions; and peer responses to formal papers. The work you do
on these assignments will be reflected in your participation grade.

Each week (except weeks when formal, graded papers are due) you will need to hand in a focus
paper (guidelines below). Since these informal writing assignments are used as preparation for
in-class discussion, no late work will be accepted. Ten such papers are required over the course
of the semester.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, you are asked to prepare for our meetings by bringing brief
written notes and discussion questions to class. (By “discussion questions,” I mean questions
that require discussion—such as “What was really at stake in the conflict between Luther and
Zwingli?” Questions that have a simple factual answer, such as “Who was Albrecht of Mainz?,”
can be answered using reference books in the library, such as the Oxford Encyclopedia of the
Reformation or the New Catholic Encyclopedia.)

Finally, you are asked to submit peer responses to four of your classmates’ papers (two for the
first paper, two for the second). All papers will be available to the entire class. Within a week from
the due date of each paper, each of you will be responsible for choosing two papers you find
particularly interesting and writing a short response (a few paragraphs) in the form of a letter to
the paper’s author. These responses will also be available to the class.

Guidelines for focus papers
The purpose of these assignments is to help you focus your reading (that’s why I call them focus
papers). A focus paper has two components. First, identify and give a precise summary of some
element of the week’s primary-source reading assignment (i.e., not chosen from the textbook; you
may use anything else, including materials from the sourcebook). You can choose a particular
passage that struck you as interesting or problematic; you can describe a recurring theme; you
can give a capsule summary of the author’s argument; etc. Second, give your own perspective on
what you have just identified and summarized: a critical analysis of what you find interesting or
compelling. In writing your analysis, ask yourself questions that probe into the underlying
meanings and problems in the texts. Examples might include:
• What is the author’s unstated agenda? Is he/she trustworthy?
• What is at stake in this text? Is there some underlying conflict?
• What historical conditions or causes might explain the author’s point of view? Would I
have written something like this given same circumstances? Why or why not?
Focus on the assigned readings, not on other texts or ideas you may be aware of. Length:
approx. 300 words (usually about a page or a little more).

Guidelines for in-class presentations
Everyone in the class will present twice during the semester. The presenter’s responsibilities are
to (1) introduce the texts for the day and (2) act as a discussion leader and “resource person” for
the rest of the hour. This can take many forms, but in general, you should plan to speak for ten to
fifteen minutes at the start of class, giving a basic introduction to the day’s assigned material. This
can mean, among other things:
• identifying major themes;
• providing helpful context for understanding the reading;
• pointing out connections between different texts or different ideas, or between the
primary sources and the textbook reading;
• showing how the day’s readings represent a continuation of or a departure from
themes and positions we’ve seen before;
• drawing the class’s attention to significant, confusing, difficult, or problematic areas
for discussion.

You should be as comfortable with the day’s readings as possible. This may involve some library
research, but it doesn’t have to. You don’t have to have a perfect understanding of the texts for
the day; but if there’s something you don’t understand, be honest about it. Come to class
prepared to talk about what you found interesting or confusing, give us the benefit of your ideas,
and ask your classmates what they thought.
You will also lead the day’s discussion. Determine what you think are the most central questions
that the class needs to talk about. Bring a list of questions and of the most important themes and
quotations from the reading. (Since everyone in the class is responsible for bringing ideas and
questions to class, you won’t be completely on your own.) A handout may be very helpful. It is
highly recommended that you a short meeting with me several days before your presentation is
scheduled so that we can go over your ideas.
Your grade for this assignment will be based on your engagement with and insight into the
readings, as reflected by your introduction and the questions you raise for discussion.

A note on the readings
As you’ll notice, the readings in this class may be very different from what you’ve done in other
courses. You will often be reading collections of short (less than a page each) historical
documents and sources. This may be difficult to get accustomed to at first. Keep in mind that you
are learning to use historical materials as a historian does: by trying to synthesize, or fit together,
a complicated composite picture using a collection of fragmentary documents. If you are
presenting, part of your job will be to communicate your version of that picture to the class. You
will be asked to read harsh polemical texts that you may find disturbing or offensive; you will also
be reading a fair amount of theology, which is probably a very unfamiliar type of writing, though
you may also find some of what you read profoundly moving. Pay attention to those reactions,
write them down, and try to ascertain what it is about the texts that provokes them. Your reactions
provide a clue about the historical distance that separates you from what you’re reading. Many of
the texts will make more sense on a second reading. In general, you will be asked to read a
relatively small amount of primary documents, but to read them with extreme care and attention.

You should also be watching closely for themes that connect the readings throughout the course.
Your take-home final exam will ask you to comment on such overarching themes. Some of the
ones to bear in mind include: the importance of individual piety and experience versus the
demands of the community or church; the value of belief contrasted with that of morality or
actions; the sacraments (especially baptism and communion); the question of authority (where
does religious truth come from?); human freedom and predestination; and others that you may
discover as the semester progresses.

Assigned texts
Five texts have been ordered for purchase. The following three are required:
Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
Carter Lindberg, ed. The European Reformations Sourcebook. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.
Hans Hillerbrand, ed. The Protestant Reformation. San Francisco: Harper, 1968.
The following two are optional, but recommended:
John Dillenberger, ed. Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings. NY: Anchor /
Doubleday, 1961. (We will be reading around 120 pages of this text.)
You may also find a copy of the Bible (preferably the New Revised Standard version) extremely
Additional readings have been collected into a course reader; others are posted on the course
Blackboard site. You are responsible for printing the online readings and bringing them to class
with you.

The fine print
WRITTEN WORK: All written work must be submitted in order to receive a passing grade for the class.
Late papers will be penalized by one grade-step (from B+ to B, etc.) for each day they are late,
unless you have arranged with me for an extension well in advance of the due date.

ATTENDANCE: This is a seminar, and attendance matters. Your attendance record will affect your
participation grade. Missing two class meetings may result in the issuance of an academic
warning slip. Missing more than four meetings may result in a failing grade for the course.
ACADEMIC HONESTY: Plagiarism is a serious offence. In written work, all quotations must be properly
attributed and appear in quotation marks. But at least as importantly, any time you are drawing on
someone else’s work you MUST cite it! This includes paraphrases, summaries, or any time you
make use of an idea that’s not your own. Anything else is plagiarism and can result in one or both
of the following: (1) a failing grade for the course or (2) College-level disciplinary action, including
expulsion. If you have questions about the proper use of sources, please don’t hesitate to contact
me. Either parenthetical citations or footnotes are appropriate.
INCLEMENT WEATHER: In the event that class must be cancelled due to inclement weather, an
announcement to that effect will be recorded on my office answering machine.

Course schedule
The following schedule is subject to change. Please complete all reading by the date listed.

Abbreviations: L=Lindberg, The European Reformations; H=Hillerbrand (ed.), The Protestant
Reformation; S=Lindberg (ed.), The European Reformations Sourcebook; O=online, R=course reader.

M 8/29 Introduction to the course

W 8/31 What is church history?
L, Ch. 1. Optional: H, Introduction
Close-reading a historical text: Luther’s own memory of the
NT: Romans
Luther, “Preface to the Latin writings,” (Dillenberger 3-11; also O)

M 9/5 The anxious life of the late medieval Christian
L 24-34; S 1.1-1.7; Carmina Burana selections (O)
L 35-51; S 1.8-1.17; Papal bulls Clericis laicos and Unam Sanctam

W 9/7 L 53-55; S 1.18-1.31; Selections from Imitatio Christi and Kolde,
Speculum Christiani (O)

M 9/12 The humanist critique of the late-medieval church
Erasmus, Praise of Folly (O) and Hutten’s letter to Frederick (R 6-

W 9/14 The humanist redefinition of religion
Erasmus, Enchiridion and Paracelsis (R 1-6 and 8-15)
M 9/19 Young Monk Luther
L 56-70, S 2.3, 2.4; Luther’s memories of monastic life; revisit his
account of his breakthrough (O); Johann Kessler’s encounter with
Luther in disguise (R 16-18)

W 9/21 The indulgence controversy and its consequences
L 71-90; S 2.5-2.9, 2.11-2.13; Myconius’s account of indulgence-
selling; The 95 Theses; Papal bulls Salvator Noster, Unigenitus;
Luther’s letter to Albrecht of Mainz (O)
For discussion: construct a case in favor of the indulgence
system, using your knowledge of popular piety from week 2.

M 9/26 Luther’s condemnation

S 2.18, 2.20-2.22; Luther’s account of the Leipzig debate; papal
bulls Exsurge Domine and Decet Romanum; Luther’s speech
before the Diet; humanist and popular reactions to Luther (all O)
For discussion: Identify the primary issue in the dispute between
Luther and his opponents. Is it primarily concerned with theology,
or with authority? Can they be separated? Why or why not?

W 9/28 Translating the scripture, reforming the churches First paper due
L 91-102; S 3.3-3.12; Luther’s introduction to the NT, H 37-42
For discussion: What does Luther mean by grace? by law?
on the scene
M 10/3 Karlstadt and Luther
L 102-110; S 3.13-3.18
For discussion: The concepts of justification and sanctification.
Which is more important for early modern Christian practice?

W 10/5 Reform takes hold: abolition of the mass, popular propaganda
R 19-26
For discussion: What do we learn from these sources about
ordinary peoples’ understanding of the historical events taking
place around them?

M 10/10 NT: Gospel of John, Romans (again), Galatians
Heidelberg theses, Dillenberger 501-503; Invocavit sermons, H 29-
36; Freedom of a Christian, H 3-28
Preface to Romans, Dillenberger 19-35; Commentary on
Galatians, H 87-107 (full edn.: Dillenberger 99-165)

W 10/12 Two Kinds of Righteousness (Dillenberger, 86-96)
Cajetan, On Faith and Works (O)

M 10/24 Erasmus, On the Freedom of the Will (R 27-58. Selections TBA)

W 10/26 Luther, On the Bondage of the Will (Dillenberger, 166- Second paper due

M 10/31 Luther, On Governmental Authority, H 43-62 and To the Christian
Nobility, Dillenberger 403-488 (selections TBA)

W 11/2 L 135-68; S 5.1-5.8, 5.13-5.14, 5.17-5.21; Müntzer, “Sermon
Before the Princes” (R 59-70); H 63-86 (“Twelve Articles” and
“Admonition to Peace”); “Against the Robbing and Murdering
Hordes” (R 71-74)

M 11/7 L 169-197; S 6.4-6.6, 6.10, 6.16-6.18, 6.20-6.23; “On True and
False Religion,” H 109-121; contrasting reports of the Marburg
Colloquy (O)

W 11/9 L 199-217; S 7.1, 7.2, 7.5-7.9; H 122-128; J&S 6.2

M 11/14 L 217-228; S 7.11-7.21; H 129-136, 146-152

W 11/16 L 229-248; S 8.2-8.7, 8.12, 8.14, 8.15-8.22

M 11/21 L 249-261; S 9.1-9.4; Calvin’s autobiographical Preface on the
Psalms (O)

M 11/28 L 261-273; S 9.5-9.16; H 153-172 (“Reply to Sadoleto”)

W 11/30 Knowledge of God, self, and sin
Sels. from the Institutes I and II (O);
H 178-213 (on predestination)

M 12/5 The life of the church
H 172-178; plus other selections from the Institutes (O).

W 12/7 L 335-356; The Council of Trent’s decree on justification and
selections from St. Ignatius of Loyola (O)